“In Bill We Trust” – I have the highest respect for Bill Belichick as football coach, businessman, leader, and pragmatist. I also have tremendous respect for Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Clearly Mr. Kraft is a gracious, generous, admirable human being, and very shrewd business man. Together, these men of principle have teamed up to create a model organization to reach the pinnacle of success in possibly the most competitive and and one of the most lucrative businesses in the world.
One of the fundamental principles of success for the New England Patriots franchise is to objectively analyze every situation and choose the option that serves the team best. This philosophy of doing whats best for the team often times leaves emotional scars on individual players these decisions affect as well as the fan base that adores them.
Some well-known examples to help demonstrate the point are the releasing of Lawyer Milloy, the benching and trading of Drew Bledsoe, and trade of Deion Branch, to name a few.
It’d be hard to argue against the results of the first two moves based on the success the team had. It’s unclear whether trading Branch, a Superbowl MVP in the prime of his career, was the best move for the franchise, but again, “In Bill We Trust” gets the fans through these tough decisions and keeps them faithful and hopeful for a competitive team and the dream of another Lombardi trophy (or two).
So again this season, we see the business side of the NFL objectively applied by the Patriots brain trust concerning fan favorite and exceptionally talented punter Zoltan Mesko. The fact that Mesko is a model private citizen and NFL citizen, that Mesko is one of the best punters in the league, and that Mesko has done everything asked of him to serve t he team, didn’t matter — it was not enough.
His character, his talent, his success, and his commitment was not what was best for the New England Patriots. Mesko is a highly talented player in the prime of his career, performing exactly as the team asks him to on and off the field, yet keeping him on the roster is not what is best for the Patriots.
The information reported by Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald shines a bright light on why this may be the case.
The Patriots saved $921,500 against the cap this season by keeping Ryan Allen over Zoltan Mesko. Mesko would have been a free agent next offseason as well, so the Patriots had to consider the cost of keeping Mesko after next year. Mesko, barring injury, surely would have performed at a very high level, thus demanding a big contract to keep him going forward.
The Patriots success, in large part is due to managing their budget many years into the future, so they clearly had to consider that Mesko is represented by Athletes First. Athletes First is the firm that represents Wes Welker, who had very contentious negotiations with the Patriots before signing with the Broncos. Kraft in so many words implied that Athletes First misinformed Welker, thus creating a rift that drove Welker to choose the Denver deal, which financially, was very similar to what he could have had to stay in New England.
Athletes First also represents Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots are going to go through an arbitration or legal process to with-hold millions that is owed to Hernandez. This takes money directly out of the pocket of this organization, so it makes sense that the Patrtiots don’t want to have to negotiate contracts with other players represented by this firm.
If Ryan Allen had no talent, the Patriots would have done what was best for the team and kept Mesko. There is no doubt about that. Yet Mesko definitely out played Allen in the preseason, and has an outstanding resume over the last three seasons since joining the team.
It’s an interesting window into seeing how all the factors of this highly competitive and lucrative business factor into what is best for the team. Time will tell if dumping Mesko will be best for the Patriots. But clearly ‘what is best for the Patriots’ is not something clearly defined and certainly it is much broader in scope than what the average fan would realize.